Passage of 2014 budget delayed

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TO ENSURE the speedy passage of the proposed P14.6 billion supplemental budget for calamity victims, both houses of Congress agreed to move the scheduled bicameral conference on the 2014 national budget next week.

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Sen. Francis Escudero, chair of the Senate committee on finance, said the House of Representatives requested the postponement of the bicam conference to December 9 so that lawmakers would have time to tackle the proposed supplemental budget Under House Bill 3423.

The additional budget will be sourced from the unused 2013 Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) of lawmakers that had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC).

The Senate has its own version of the supplemental budget which is set to be introduced before the plenary after the Senate finance committee approves Senate Bill No. 1938 appropriating a P14.6 billion supplemental budget.

Escudero said that the committee will introduce its approved supplemental budget in the plenary once the House of Representatives passes its version for final reading and transmit the same to the Senate.

“The realigned utilization of the P14.6 billion supplemental fund will be used principally to augment two items in the 2013 budget, namely the quick respond funds (QRF) of various agencies and the President’s calamity fund,” he added.

But despite the one week delay, Senate President Franklin Drilon expressed confidence that the House of Representatives and the Senate will be able to reach agreement on how to resolve the differences in their versions of the 2014 General Appropriations Bill.

“I’m not worried that there will be a deadlock. I have gone through this numerous times in the past. There can be difficulties sometimes, but at the end of the day, reasonable people can come up with an agreement that is acceptable not only to both chambers but also to the Filipino public in general,” Drilon said.

The Senate has introduced several amendments in the General Appropriations Bill submitted by the House of Representatives reducing it from P2.268-trillion to P2.265-trillion.

The decrease represents the P3.2 billion PDAF of 15 senators and Vice President Jejomar Binay.

The Senate also allotted P100 billion for the rehabilitation and reconstruction program of areas badly hit by disasters.

The Senate version realigned P2.5 billion from the P5 billion lump-sum appropriation for scholarships to the budget of 112 state colleges and universities to manage their own scholarship programs for deserving students. The Senate also increased the budget of the University of the Philippines by P438 million.

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